Getting fat on expats

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Expats are pouring into senior financial services roles in Singapore. Is local talent being overlooked?

First things first - overseas workers are in the minority in the Singaporean financial services industry. But they're in the majority when it comes to jobs above a certain rank.

James Rushworth, managing director of search firm Profile Search and Selection, says around 90% of staff working at VP (vice president) level and above in roles such as operations and finance are expats from Australia and Europe. Many only plan to spend three to five years in the country before returning home or moving to a larger role elsewhere.

Local staff aren't necessarily losing out as a result. According to Rushworth, the expat influx is a reflection of record growth in Singapore's financial services sector and local candidate shortages, which have been endemic for the last two and a half years.

With many overseas staff only planning to stay for the short term, Rushworth says: "The whole intention is to train local staff up into those management positions."

At the same time, it seems the pay differential between expat and local staff is narrowing. Rushworth says there is no disparity between what a local Singaporean VP or director earns versus what an expat from, for example, the UK or Australia would earn in the same role.

Chris Jay, associate director at executive search firm Charterhouse Partnership, agrees: "Five or ten years ago you might have seen a gap between local and expat pay within foreign banks, but these days expat packages are no longer the norm and most foreign talent are placed on localised packages."