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Candidates reject 20% pay rises as “fear” grips Asian banking job market

Candidates reject 20% pay rises as “fear” grips Asian banking job market

Worried about the market

Employed banking professionals in Asia are now more reluctant to change jobs than at any stage since the financial crisis, according to recruiters.

And even bumper pay rises are failing to lure candidates.

A string of local lay-offs this year – from techies at Barclays to investment bankers at Goldman Sachs – have made many finance workers think twice about moving banks, in case their new role turns out to be unstable.

And although Asian redundancies at Deutsche Bank have so far been limited, the turmoil surrounding the firm’s global operations has affected the job market in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“Provided the candidate isn’t unemployed, it’s harder now that it’s been since the GFC to convince people to take a new position. You’ve got so much negative sentiment – especially around Deutsche – which seems to amplify the risk of moving,” says a finance recruiter in Hong Kong.

“In this market people who are in relatively safe banks and jobs just aren’t keen to move,” adds Christina Ng, an executive director at LMA Recruitment in Singapore.

This current malaise goes beyond the normal fourth-quarter hiring downturn and is likely to continue into next year, say recruiters.

“Candidates are valuing stability very highly –  now more so than in recent years,” says Vince Natteri, managing director of recruiters Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong.

“They’re fearful because of the economic climate and because DB is in trouble and other investment banks are downsizing,” adds Natteri. “Many people I speak with think the market will get worse and until it gets more predictable, candidates will remain reluctant to move, unless their current role is under threat.”

Financial professionals in Asia aren’t just worried about being ‘last in, first out’ at a new employer, says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group in Singapore.

“The new role may actually be stable, but they could be joining to pick up the pieces after one of the many restructuring exercises at global banks this year – so the work could be messy and the company environment hard to navigate,” she explains.

Kuek says one of her front-office candidates in Singapore recently rejected a job offer with a 23% increase in base pay because the bank had just undergone a restructuring.

Natteri from Pinpoint Asia has also been on the wrong end of job seekers refusing salary hikes.

“A candidate was recently offered an incredible pay increase, which in a typical market they would have unhesitatingly taken. But they didn’t because of the perceived risk of making the move during uncertain times,” he says.

But why apply for a job in the first place if you have reservations about moving?

“Very often your true thoughts only surface when push comes to shove,” says Natteri. “Before an offer comes people usually think they will move, but when it comes stability suddenly becomes more important, especially after they’ve discussed the job with their spouses.”

Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong are doing what they can to convince finance professionals to take new jobs.

“We’re having more career counselling type discussions with job seekers,” says Kuek from Meyer. “And we’re getting the hiring manager (and sometimes even their boss) to talk to candidates on more fronts – about career progression, leadership opportunities, and mentoring support, for example.”

Natteri says it’s important to tackle the “stability issue” up front. “We tell candidates how stable the bank is and how they get both stability and career advancement by making the switch. If the fear factor is neutralised early on, it becomes less of an issue at offer stage.”

Image credit: JOHN GOMEZ, Getty

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