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You must act NOW to get a banking job in Asia in 2015

Act now

If you want a new banking job in Singapore or Hong Kong after you get your bonus early next year, it pays to start planning your move right away.

Banks in Asia are “pipelining talent” this quarter – compiling lists of suitable candidates for the vacancies they are budgeting to open up in Q1.

“Despite what they may say externally, all banks in Asia are preparing for Q1 and Q2 hiring now, with heads of departments assigning headcount allocation,” says Nick Wells, a director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore. “And many of them also line up potential candidates because if they wait until bonus time, the competition for good talent is significantly increased.”

Banks do some of their talent pipelining themselves by using in-house recruitment teams in Singapore or Hong Kong or by employing ‘sourcing’ specialists, often based in lower-cost Asian locations like the Philippines.

They are also increasingly turning to recruiters for market mapping of potential candidates, especially for front-office jobs, preferring them to the services of the cheaper market-mapping companies. “The mapping-only firms just give you a list, they can’t tell you who’s the best person on that list – that’s where recruiters can add value,” an HR manager from an investment bank in Hong Kong told us earlier this year.

“Compared with last year, we are now seeing unprecedented requests for market maps from our banking clients in Asia,” adds Wells. “Search firms can offer details on team structure, functionality, compensation and P&L, as well as profiling interesting candidates.”

Related articles:
Four financial services firms expanding in Asia right now
New Asian “powerhouse” bank tipped to hire in Singapore – but would you want to work there?
10 ways to answer the worst job interview question in Asian banking

You are more likely to be pipelined in Asia in Q4 if your job falls within one of the following categories, says Chris Jackson, a director at Pure Search in Hong Kong.

  • You have difficult-to-fill skills that are in high demand in Singapore or Hong Kong (click here and here for examples).
  • Your current team has suffered high turnover in the last 12 months – headhunters target vulnerable teams.
  • A bank is planning to replace an underperforming employee and is using a headhunter, rather than direct advertising, to ensure confidentiality.
  • A bank is expanding a particular department in 2015 (click here for examples).
  • It’s a global search extending beyond Asia. “For example, in portfolio analytics candidates from Europe, North America and Australasia have all found roles in Asia over the last 12 months,” says Jackson.

How to get on banks’ recruitment radar in Q4

The factors above and your stellar performance this year will be the main drivers in getting you pipelined, but there are things you can do to help your cause.

Avoid speculative CVs

Internal recruitment teams at banks in Singapore and Hong Kong tend to be small and don’t take kindly to being deluged with CVs not linked to vacancies. “If you aren’t relevant to a current mandate, it’s very unlikely you be remembered a few months down the line when new roles come live. At some banks in Asia, you will simply disappear into a black hole of speculative CVs,” says Wells from Webber Chase.

Contact a specialist recruiter

Recruiters may still agree to meet you even if they aren’t advertising any suitable jobs. Try to track down an individual consultant in your job function rather than calling the switch board of a recruitment agency. “Choose specialist recruiters with genuine senior-level relationships with multiple decision makers at banks who are budgeting for 2015. In some cases, by the time roles are advertised, interview processes have already started,” says Jackson from Pure Search.

Ask about expanding banks

Right now several banks are talking up their 2015 hiring plans in Asia, and it’s not just the usual suspects – UOB, Credit Agricole and Mizuho are among those expanding. It’s worth asking your recruiter whether they have any unadvertised insights into such firms. “Utilise this extra information to ensure you stand out from the crowd,” says Wells.

You can meet banks this quarter

Recruiters may even push for you to meet a hiring manager this quarter. “For candidates who are especially strong or will be in significant demand next year, banks will set up meetings now for an initial conversation to build the foundation to proceed formally in Q1,” says John Mullally, associate director of financial services at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong.

Update your profiles now!

Too many financial professionals make themselves hard to headhunt, bemoan recruiters in Asia. This quarter is the prime time to revamp your online CVs and social-media profiles to make yourself more searchable. “Include comprehensive details, such as the sectors you’ve worked in and the clients you’ve worked with,” advises Mullally.

Networking: be selective

Although networking can reveal possible job opportunities, you are also running out of time – the end of the year is nigh. Try to focus on events held by professionals associations in your field, says Mullally.

Don’t just ask who’s hiring in 2015

“Use recruiters to give you a full picture of which banks you should target for according to their needs, expectations on money, culture and team dynamics,” says Jackson.

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