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Banks in Asia desperate for in-house candidates. Here’s how to get transferred   

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Most banks in Singapore and Hong Kong aren’t doing as much external hiring as they were 12 months ago – so if you want a new job, you are advised to look in-house.

Fortunately, cost-conscious banks in Asia are big on so-called ‘internal mobility’ between different departments right now. DBS and Standard Chartered, for example, both offer programmes in which staff can request transfers to new teams every two or three years.

Nevertheless, moving to another unit within the same bank still means facing significant hurdles – here’s how to overcome them.

Raise it in your review

You don’t want your current manager to scupper your transfer, so raise the issue with them during a quarterly or annual review meeting. “It’s vital to introduce the idea as part of a formal career development discussion,” says Mark Sparrow, APAC managing director at consultancy NP Group in Singapore. “It’s not a crime to want to explore ‘career breadth’ – and demonstrating that you’d like to achieve these goals within your bank would almost always be viewed positively.”

Research the boring stuff before you start looking

Most banks have formal, often tedious, procedures governing internal moves. Chances are you don’t know them, so get an overview from HR before you start looking for opportunities. “HR managers need to outline clear policies – eligibility, selection criteria, rewards packages, relocation, and processes like internal job postings,” says Abhishek Mittal, director of talent consulting at Willis Towers Watson in Singapore.

Is the role really what you think it is?

Most cross-department moves start with an employee reading an internal job advertisement. “But at my firm you don’t usually apply straight away,” says a senior HR manager at a European bank in Singapore. “You have an informal chat with the internal acquisition team about whether you’re potentially the right fit, whether it’s worth applying – this may not be obvious from the written job description. You might then also have an off-record talk with the hiring manager – and only after that do you proceed with a formal application.”

Make them love your loyalty

Emphasising your intention to remain in the bank is an ideal starting point to any internal-move negotiation, says Henry Chamberlain, a Hong Kong-based careers consultant and former head of selection at Standard Chartered. “Banks in Asia are trying to retain talent like never before – and by allowing staff to move across business lines, they not only keep them, they also build more rounded leaders.”

Show you’re willing to learn

If you’re moving internally, there will be many tasks within the job that you’ve never carried out before. You must be prepared to discuss how you would cope with this challenge. “You need to consider how much of the new job is ‘learnable’, and be ready to make an investment in self-development,” advises Mittal.

Competency is key

While you’ll have to learn many of the specific technical skills, make sure you already have the correct general competencies – analytical or leadership abilities, for example – to make a successful move. “Research shows that a candidate with the right competency profile, but lacking the technical knowledge, will do less well at first than a person who has more skills but doesn’t fit well into the culture of the new team,” says Chamberlain. “But after a very short time, the person with the ‘right-fit’ competencies will typically outperform the skills-based one.”

Point out performance benefits

If you’re pitching an internal move to your employer, use examples to illustrate how well you would perform in your new team. “Line managers need to understand the business case for talent mobility,” says Mittal. “We ran analytics when working with a Southeast Asian bank and discovered people who moved across divisions attained KPI results that were about 12% higher than those who moved within the same division.”

Don’t mention money

If the bank sniffs a financial motive behind your transfer, you may be in trouble. “Be fully cognisant as to why you wish to make this move,” says Sparrow from NP Group. “Often it’s actually the allure of a perceived better salary or bonuses rather than a natural career path. This may well mean that you’re not suited to the new job.”

Don’t rush

“I sometimes think in my bank that we encourage mobility too much and rush people into moves before they’ve fulfilled themselves in their current role,” says the senior HR manager in Singapore. “If they’d actually stayed on longer they could have done an even better job and enhanced their career even more.”


Image credit: elenaleonova, Getty

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