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The key skill you need to survive in a Singapore buy-side job

The key skill you need to survive in a Singapore buy-side job

It's a hybrid

The asset management industry has been expanding in Singapore but in many ways it’s becoming more difficult to get a job in the sector, especially if you work in sales.

That’s because asset management firms have recently upped the ante when they recruit in sales and relationship management.

I’ve noticed that over the past 12 to 24 months more and more firms are demanding what I call “hybrid” candidates – salespeople who are good at developing relationships and selling, but also have technically strong product knowledge.

It’s the last part of the equation that’s causing the problem. In Singapore there are only a handful of people who have the required in-depth understanding of their firm’s increasingly complex range of products.

Buy-side employers want people who can explain the technical details of how a product will help their client’s business or investment criteria. For example, if a client asks about the market turbulence caused by Brexit, the salesperson should know enough to talk about the potential impact and potential strategies right there and then. It gives the salesperson credibility with their clients, and it gives clients an immediate response to their queries.

Singapore has gone through an ‘upgrading cycle’ in asset management recently – by this I mean that first one firm hires a hybrid, then others need to follow.

What’s driving all this demand? It’s mainly the growth of the wealth management sector in Singapore, both private and mass-affluent banking. In an environment of low interest rates and market volatility, private banks are seeking better investment and product solutions from their asset management partners.

Hybrid salespeople must understand the product needs of their private-banks clients so they can translate them internally to the product people. If you’re not technically strong yourself, you can’t follow through immediately with your product team – there will be toing and froing among the sales team, the product development team and the client.

The shortage of these hybrid skills in Singapore is more acute than it is in Europe or the US as the asset management sector here is smaller and less mature. The industry here really started expanding after the financial crisis when there was a flight to quality and product diversity.

It’s hard to hire foreign candidates to bridge the talent gap because even if they have hybrid skills, they don’t have Asian client connections.

But locally based product or investment specialists can sometime make the transition to hybrid sales roles, if they’ve proven themselves good at dealing with clients during the client meetings they’ve attended alongside RMs. But they need to adapt to having sales targets as their KPIs.

Needless to say, if you already have a hybrid skill set of technical and sales experience, you can command a healthy pay premium in Singapore’s competitive asset management industry.

Stanley Teo is a director at Profile Search & Selection in Singapore. He’s also worked in investment banking at Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan.

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