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The emerging trend creating banking jobs in Singapore

Singapore

As China internationalises its financial markets, forging a successful banking career in Hong Kong increasingly depends on having mainland contacts and experience. Last week, for example, we reported on the job opportunities created by a scheme giving Hong Kong and Shanghai mutual access to each other’s stock markets.

China’s financial reforms are having a much smaller, but still notable, impact on banking jobs in Singapore.

Data released last month from the Monetary Authority of Singapore shows that yuan deposits in Singapore reached 254 billion yuan (US$41 billion) in June, up 84% from a year earlier. The rise is largely due to the launch of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone in September 2013, which allowed financial institutions based there to carry out cross-border yuan transactions and borrow money from abroad.

Several banks in Singapore – local, Chinese and Western firms alike – have been reaping the rewards of increased yuan transactions. Yuan deposits at Standard Chartered in Singapore, for example, have tripled since June last year, while yuan deposits at DBS have risen 46% from 12 months ago, according to the Straits Times.

These increases are contributing to a buoyant hiring market in corporate banking in Singapore, say recruiters in the city state.

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“We can expect banks such as OCBC, ANZ, HSBC, Bank of China and ICBC to increase their recruitment in yuan-related areas,” says Sherry Zerh, a senior consultant at search firm Kerry Consulting in Singapore. “Banks with a strong presence in China, or Chinese banks with a strong Singapore presence will leverage their relationships with the Chinese companies who are now the main drivers for the increase in offshore yuan transactions.”

Both the range and complexity of yuan products and services – such as offshore loans, cross-border cash pooling and free-trade accounts – offered by banks in Singapore are increasing.

“But I don’t think there’s one particular skill that banks here specifically need in this area – instead a strong Chinese market knowledge and/or network are very useful,” says Zerh. “For example, front-office candidates in Singapore who understand the China FX landscape can strategise deals more effectively to take advantage of differences between the onshore and offshore yuan market.”

Singapore-based corporate-banking relationship managers with strong Chinese networks are in particular demand as banks attempt to attract new business from mainland companies. RMs of any ilk are in short supply in Singapore, however, and the vast majority focus on the domestic or Southeast Asian market – Chinese experience remains rare.

“In the middle to bank office, it’s more about tweaking existing systems to support yuan trading,” says Zerh. “Compliance candidates need a strong understanding of yuan currency-related regulatory requirements. But I’ve yet to see a salary premium tagged to these skills.”

Yuan-related services in Singapore still pale in significance to Hong Kong, which handles 53% of the global offshore yuan business, with deposits of almost 1 trillion yuan (US$160.9 billion).

“Most banks would prefer to base yuan-related roles in Hong Kong. And given the great mobility of talent these days, there isn’t a preference for candidates to be based in Singapore,” says Chris Mead, regional director of recruiters Hays in Singapore.

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