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Six of the most popular career changes in Asian banking

career change

The job market in Asian banking has been tight this year, with more layoffs in the front-office and more offshoring in the back-office. As a result, recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong have noticed an uptick in candidates attempting career changes into more stable functions.

If you’re thinking of making a major job move yourself, these are the sectors where you’re most likely to succeed.

1. M&A bankers into corporate development in Chinese tech firms

Chinese technology firms are increasingly building large in-house corporate development teams and are recruiting investment bankers to help them with takeovers and listings. “In 2016 I’m seeing more and more Chinese tech corporates hiring bankers,” says Hubert Tam, managing partner at search firm Sirius Partners in Hong Kong. Earlier this year, for example, Ant Financial Services, China’s most valuable financial technology company, recruited former Goldman Sachs banker Douglas Feagin as head of its international business. Chinese tech companies want to grow overseas and are interested in bankers who have cross-border deal expertise.

2. Sell-side operations to buy-side operations

With large banks still offshoring back-office roles away from Singapore and Hong Kong, some operations people are seeking sanctuary in the buy-side. “We had a candidate who moved from an investment bank to an investment management firm, focusing on derivatives operations,” says Orelia Chan, a senior manager at recruiters Robert Walters in Singapore. “The employer initially preferred someone from the buy-side, but they realised that some operations skills are transferable, so they became open to banking candidates with the right product knowledge, managerial experience and personality fit.”

3. Commodities salespeople into commodities companies

Commodities salespeople at banks are moving to in-house roles at commodities companies in Singapore, says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group. This career change combines both push factors away from banking (redundancies at FICC teams at global banks) and pull factors into the corporate sector (commodities firms continue to expand in Singapore, the industry’s Asian hub). “They usually go to an ex-client and look after the financing structures for the company, liaising with banks on its behalf,” says Kuek.

4. Everything into audit

“In 2016 I’ve seen more people from a non-audit background moving into the audit function in Asia,” says Richard Fennelly, a lead consultant at G.R.A.C.E. Recruitment in Hong Kong. “The main examples have been from operations, trading, technology and risk. The reason banks hire them – in addition to their potential for developing strong audit skills – is because of their subject-matter expertise in the areas they will be auditing. In this market, where it’s important to identify the next big control gap, someone with first-hand knowledge of their space potentially has a lot to offer in audit.”

5. Audit into product compliance

Audit can itself be a platform for a career change into compliance. “It’s usually challenging to break into compliance once you’re at AVP level and above,” says Fennelly. “But in recent months I’ve seen a few surprising instances, particularly auditors – who were strong in either equities or fixed income – moving into product-compliance advisory. Banks hire them for their product knowledge, communication skills and previous interactions with the business.”

6. Bulge bracket MDs to emerging markets consultants

Global investment banks in Hong Kong and Singapore have been trimming their senior ranks over the past year. “As a result, a number of displaced directors and MDs have taken consultancy and training contracts at small local banks in developing markets like Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam,” says Pan Zaixian, general manager of Singapore search firm Kerry Consulting. “Their assignments include developing business strategies, compliance frameworks and trading platforms. It takes some adjustment to move from head-honcho positions at IBs – where they enjoyed great infrastructure support –  to now doing their own PowerPoints and booking their own flights.”


Image credit: baona, Getty

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