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Deutsche Bank to “selectively” recruit senior bankers in Asia amid heavy post-bonus hiring

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If you’re searching for a front-office banking job in Asia – be it in investment banking, corporate banking or wealth management – you are likely to face a good deal of competition in the next couple of months from fellow candidates who are just as eager to leave their current firm.

While hiring was strangely subdued 12 month ago, the expectation this year is that plenty of bankers in the region will want to move once they’ve pocketed their bonus payments.

Deutsche Bank will be looking to capitalise on this candidate movement by cherry picking senior bankers. Kris Sasitharan, the APAC regional lead of front-office talent acquisition at the German bank, gives us his take on key Asian recruitment trends for 2014.

It’s bonus season – will many bankers be moving jobs in Asia this quarter?

Last year was a bit unusual in that we made more hires in the second half rather than around bonus time. This year, across the banking sector, from what we’re hearing, more front-office candidates seem to be open to exploring new opportunities. In my conversations with headhunters recently, I’ve detected a lot of positive energy, so I suspect things will be busy.

What’s the front-office hiring outlook for Deutsche Bank in Asia this year?

In terms of sheer numbers, we don’t expect hiring to be up on last year. However, we will continue to make strategic, selective hires, identifying the best people to grow our market share in Asia across our corporate banking and securities, global transaction banking, and asset and wealth management businesses.

How do you define a strategic hire?

It’s about having the right senior talent in Asia to put us on the right path to fulfil our ‘Strategy 2015+’ objectives to become the leading global, client-centric universal bank. Last year there were some great examples of this: Sung Eun Ahn and Philip Lee as chief country officers for Korea and Singapore respectively; Tan Boon-Kee as head of client coverage for Southeast Asia; Phumchai Kambhato as head of corporate banking and securities in Thailand; and Yusof Yaacob as head of corporate banking and securities in Malaysia.

Banks are under political pressure in Singapore to hire more local talent. Is this affecting the way you recruit?

There’s been little change in our hiring philosophy, which is to look for local talent as much as we can. But importantly, we are conscious that we need to appeal to the wider candidate pool, including local talent. One noticeable trend since the GFC is that the local and regional banks have become more competitive with the international banks in terms of their attractiveness to candidates. So we have to make sure that our employee value proposition remains relevant to local banking professionals. We also have a strong commitment to recruiting returnees, Singaporeans with overseas work experience. Philip Lee, our country chief in Singapore, is very involved in this – when he travels, he makes sure to meet fellow Singaporeans working for us overseas.

How else do you maintain a strong employer brand in Singapore?

Deutsche has been in Singapore for over 40 years and has developed a strong local brand. We also have close relationships with the top universities, and our graduate programme is very highly rated. We’re also conscious of how important CSR, corporate social responsibility, is to employees here. People here, especially young people, have a highly developed social conscience and want opportunities to give something back to their society. So, as well as formal corporate sponsorships, we emphasise volunteering – for example, our ‘Donate a Day’ initiative where staff can donate a day’s pay a year (or more in some cases) to a cause of their choice. This also strengthens our ties to local communities.

How important are internal candidates to your headcount needs in Asia?

More than ever we value what an internal candidate brings to the role; you can’t replicate what they know of our culture and values, so internal mobility is becoming increasingly important. In 2012, 14% of our vacancies were filled by employees who moved internally – that rose to 35% in 2013. We revamped our career mobility processes recently, including launching a new intranet site aimed at helping facilitate more open mobility discussions between managers and employees.

How has the movement of external candidates from the West into Asia changed over the past five years?

Back in 2009, people were trying to get into Asia because it was a necessity for them to look further afield for opportunities. Now Asia is no longer seen as an outpost, but as an integral part of the business, so people come here to add value to the bank, not to avoid being laid off elsewhere. Our hiring from overseas is measured. In most cases – especially for relationship managers or coverage bankers – the talent on the ground is very established.

Are agency recruiters and headhunters still relevant to hiring in front-office banking?

We still value their expertise, but their role has changed in the past few years; our expectations are higher now because with social media, especially LinkedIn, a lot more information about candidates is in the public domain, so identifying candidates is easier. Recruiters are less important to the candidate identification process, but can be valuable for contacting candidates, understanding their motivations, making sure they are the right cultural fit, and closing the hire.

How should candidates find out about Deutsche Bank’s culture in advance of job interviews?

Of course there’s our website and we are active on social media. But you need to do more; you need to use your networks to contact people who work here and find out what it’s really like. This is important – we’re putting greater emphasis on cultural fit and our values and beliefs when we hire. It’s not just about your trading or sales skills or your revenue-generating ability, it’s about whether you come to the organisation with the right values.

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