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Escape offshoring: Five finance-tech jobs set to stay in Singapore and Hong Kong

If you’re looking for a banking-tech job in Singapore or Hong Kong, first make sure its long-term future is secure and is not under threat from offshoring.

Singapore, in particular, was until about two years ago a prime place for global banks to hub IT jobs. Since then the city state, which alongside Hong Kong ranks in the top-10 most expensive cities for expatriates, has itself fallen victim to offshoring as banks move IT roles, especially junior ones, into lower-cost locations in India and The Philippines.

Offshoring by banks was cited in a December survey by recruiters Astbury Marsden as a major reason for falling candidate confidence in Singapore. ANZ, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, RBS, Standard Chartered and UBS have all move operations and/or IT jobs away from Singapore in the past two years.

But there are still vacancies, mainly highly skilled ones, for IT professionals in both Singapore and Hong Kong – jobs that banks would prefer to base in major Asian financial centres. For example, as we reported last month, JPMorgan is hiring 100 new technologists in Singapore for its core processing unit. It’s looking for candidates whose broad range of skills would be harder to find in an offshore emerging market.

Here are five banking tech jobs where Singapore and Hong Kong techies can work without comparative safety.

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1) Systems architects for credit and market-risk

Large global banks in Singapore are searching for systems architects with technical expertise in both credit and market risk to help them with risk-calculation, simulation and pricing platforms, says Daniel Rogers, director of recruiters Peoplebank Singapore. “It’s a specialist skill set and candidates are generally required for project-based or internal-systems work, hence these roles cannot be offshored,” he adds. “Candidates are quite difficult to find, not only in Singapore but overseas too. While banks are open to candidates from abroad, their salary expectations are often too high.” The actual annual base salary range is between US$140k and $195k in Singapore.

2) Calypso support and development

“Calypso is a difficult technology skill to source at the best at times, but these days in Singapore it’s increasingly rare to find candidates,” says Rogers. Banks, however, are becoming less willing to search overseas for Calypso support and development talent. “It’s increasing hard for companies to offer relocation packages and those that are able to relocate tend to have even higher expectations of ability and product knowledge,” adds Rogers. This skill shortage is helping to drive up salaries – Calypso professionals in Singapore can now expect an annual base salary of between US$80k and $95k.

3) Rapid application development (RAD)

These professionals typically sit on the trading desk at investment banks and do plenty of IT “fire fighting”, says Vince Natteri, a director at recruitment firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “Their jobs won’t be offshored as it’s important for them to be right next to the trader for face-to-face interaction,” he adds. “Your response times needs to be amazing and you must be able to work in a high-pressure environment, possess excellent communication skills, have a good understanding of your desk’s product, and have technical skills like Excel VBA, some C# or Java.” Unsurprisingly, given these requirements, suitable candidates are in short supply.  At an investment bank in Hong Kong, someone with five years’ RAD experience in, for example, equity derivatives, would typically earn between US$90k and $130k.

4) Front-office focused Java developers

These jobs also require interaction with front-office folk like quants, strategists and traders – hence they are equally difficult to offshore away from major financial centres – but they are less about fire fighting, more about longer-term strategic development.  “We are seeing increased activity especially for strong core Java/multi-threading developers in areas such as market-making for derivatives,” says Natteri. Salaries in Hong Kong are similar to those of RAD roles.

5) IT regulatory professionals

There is strong demand for technology regulatory professionals who have a track record of working with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the city state’s financial regulator. “Financial institutions that once had small teams in place to make sure projects were in line with MAS standards are now investing in senior personal, especially since the inception of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 “If you have strong MAS experience and regional regulatory experience, you will be sought after across the Singapore and Hong Kong market.” Base salaries in Singapore are high – in the range of US$140k to $220k

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