A new “battle” between banks and tech firms has kicked off in Asia

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A new “battle” between banks and tech firms has kicked off in Asia

When it comes to recruiting (and retaining) technologists, banks in Singapore have faced intense competition from the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook for at least the past two years. But now the threat from big tech is increasingly focused on one job function: cloud engineering.

Banks in Singapore have lost several senior cloud professionals to Google of late. DBS’s former APAC head of cloud engineering, Carl Bachman Kharazmi, is now working for Google. The tech firm has also hired Guillaume Van de Vyver  from Standard Chartered in an APAC cloud strategy role, and taken on Keshi Tan from JP Morgan as a strategic cloud engineer. Meanwhile, as we reported earlier this year, cloud-computing market leader AWS has several ex-banking technologists within its expanding Singapore ranks. AWS currently has 68 local vacancies for solution architects alone.

“There’s now a two-way battle between banks and tech firms in Singapore for top cloud talent – they’re both happy to hire from each other,” says Adam Davies, lead IT recruiter at iKas International.

Banks are trying – and in some cases succeeding – to recruit cloud engineers from the tech giants. In January, for example, Charlie Cheng joined DBS from Google as an MD specialising in cloud engineering and operations. “Banking experience is usually only a ‘nice to have’ on cloud job specs, because banks know they’ll never find the number of cloud engineers they need if they make it mandatory,” says Davies.

Recruitment numbers continue to rise as banks move more of their systems onto the cloud. DBS, for example, opened a new cloud data centre in November 2017 and now runs about half of its computing workload on the public cloud. Its payment app, PayLah, and its mobile-only Digibank are both cloud hosted.

“The cloud allows banks to scale their infrastructure and applications more efficiently, which has led to the recent migrating of Java applications into cloud environments for several banks in Singapore,” says April Jimenez, a senior consultant at recruiters Huxley in Singapore. “This has in turn led to the increase in hiring within cloud functions,” she adds.

Concerns about cyber security are also fuelling demand for cloud engineers at banks, says Clarence Quek, a senior client solutions director at recruiters Randstad in Singapore. “As a result of increasingly stringent regulations and demand for better user privacy and data protection, banks are investing in proprietary cloud instead of outsourcing the build and maintenance of their cloud networks,” says Quek.

Davies from iKas says there’s been a “marked increase in demand” for cloud engineers and DevOps cloud engineers in Singapore, especially those with experience in Kubernetes, OpenShift, Docker, Ansible, Bitbucket, AWS, MS Azure, Cloud Foundry, and Linux, and scripting in Python or Shell. “Singapore is playing catch-up compared to other financial centres, where cloud technology has been in use for a lot longer,” he adds.

This demand has helped to push up pay. At director level, cloud engineers in Singapore are the (equal) best compensated technologists working in banking, and earn S$250k on average, according to our 2019 technology pay table, complied from recruiter surveys. Recruiters expect salaries in the so-called ABCD fields (automation, blockchain, cloud, data) to rise more rapidly than other functions over the next two years, so expect wider variations in tech pay in the future.

JP Morgan and Citi, two of the foreign banks with the largest tech teams in Singapore, have 44 and 10 Singapore-based vacancies requiring cloud skills on their respective careers sites. JP Morgan’s tech recruitment in Singapore this year is partly driven by “additional investment” in cloud technology, Tina Wyer, head of Asia Pacific corporate technology, told us earlier this month.

If you’re choosing between a cloud job at a bank and a cloud job at a tech firm, you should be aware of the differences between the two sectors “A technology firm provides opportunities to work on projects that create new solutions, and provides an environment where you can learn from your peers,” says Quek. “A bank is more likely to draw applicants who are seeking better pay, and funding for large in-house technology projects,” he adds.

Image credit: GP232, Getty

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