The job market has been fairly buoyant in Hong Kong and Singapore since Chinese New Year – and the post-bonus hiring boom still has some life left in it.
But which particular Asian banking jobs are most in demand during the current busy season for new vacancies? We spoke with several recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong to find out.
Over the past three years, Chinese companies have increasingly been hiring Hong Kong investment bankers into in-house M&A jobs. Now the trend is spreading to Singapore. “A lot of the movement of analysts and associates this year is out of IBD, and corporate M&A is becoming a more and more popular destination in Singapore,” says Jay Abeyasinghe, associate director of financial services at Morgan McKinley. “The pay is significantly lower, but there’s much better work-life balance and it’s a more sustainable career in the long run.”
Demand for compliance professionals in Asia may have dampened at banks over the past year, but in fintech it remains strong. “There’s a surge in compliance hiring in fintech as start-ups accelerate their operations,” says Lim Chai Leng, director of banking and financial services at Randstad. “I’ve already seen a number of senior compliance people moving from banking to fintech companies. Candidates with fraud, forensic and anti-bribery corruption experience are highly sought after.”
Product development and project management roles within Asia digital banking were hot last year (see our interviews with digital heads at HSBC and OCBC) and recruitment continues to rise in 2018. “Digitalisation roles in banks are in demand,” says Angela Kuek, director of Meyer Consulting Group. “Banks want product development or management professionals who also have a good understanding of technology – UX, UI skills – and can stand in the gap between the business and IT.”
“I’m seeing many international banks building out conduct risk teams in Asia, but there’s a definite lack of depth to the candidate market. People with a background of implementing a framework and understanding the specifics of conduct risk are in demand,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “It’s easier to find people for regional roles rather than country specific coverage, purely due to the heavier regulatory scrutiny affecting in-country jobs.”
“Within the Asian banks, I’m seeing a demand for debt capital market bankers, primarily as part of their growth strategy in the region as global banks consolidate their efforts,” says Nilay Khandelwal, regional director of Michael Page. Led by CITIC Securities and China Securities – in first and second spots, respectively – Chinese banks took six of the top-10 places for Asia (ex-Japan) DCM revenue by bank in Q1 2018, according to Dealogic.
“Having seen most major banks heavily cut their commodities pricing teams, I’ve now seen a recent resurgence in demand from banks for mid-level commodities quantitative-analyst candidates,” says Nick Wells, a director at Webber Chase. “But the problem is that most of the potential candidates have already left the sell side and joined funds, physical traders and consultancies.”
“Corporate banking relationship managers in Hong Kong are in high demand as almost all banks have room to hire. But while vacancies are abundant, banks are extremely patient when recruiting and their job requirements are the toughest I’ve ever seen,” says Jack Leung, business director of Hays in Hong Kong. “RMs with a steady employment history and who have connections to Hong Kong mid-caps and Chinese private companies are most sought after.”
Private banks of all sizes – from UBP to UBS – are expanding their teams of RMs in Singapore as Southeast Asia’s population of millionaires and billionaires continues to increase. But because the local job market remains tight, banks are now looking to hire more offshore RMs and relocate them to Singapore to work on desks serving their home country. “There’s increasing demand for private bankers based overseas in Southeast Asia, who will be considered for Singapore jobs if they have the relevant client books,” says Pierre Pineau, a senior manager at Robert Walters.
Private banks in Asia don’t just want to hire RMs; investment advisors (or counsellors) are in demand, too. “Many private banks are simultaneously increasing headcount for both private bankers and investment counsellors, with the aim of beefing up their ‘hunter-farmer’ business model,” says Leung from Hays. “In Hong Kong, along with investment knowledge, counsellors need strong soft skills to deal with Greater China clients.”
“Business transformation roles are back in vogue in Asia this year,” says Ivan Tang, managing partner at recruiters Tangspac Consulting. “Whether you’re a Six Sigma, lean or agile specialist with generic bank-consulting experience, or an expert in a particular banking function, banks are looking for people like you to drive strategic projects, helping to reduce waste, enhance efficiency, and fine-tune operating models.”
“Due to a recent change in regulation by the Monetary Authority of Singapore that requires banks to have a balanced product portfolio – including insurance – there’s increased demand this year for relationship managers experienced in bancassurance,” says Lim from Randstad. “As more banks and insurance companies come together to forge long-term partnerships, banks will be looking for candidates who have the networks and experience to navigate this tightly-regulated area.”
A function with lots of vacancies, but not necessarily one you want to work in. “In Q1, there was a marked increase in roles across trade finance operations,” says Sohail Kukar, a consultant at Ambition. “There’s a small amount of expansion from large banks, but also high turnover, with candidates regularly facing long working hours, high volumes of work, and unexpectedly low bonuses. The appeal of commodity trading firms, who are increasingly more open to ops candidates from banking backgrounds, is also fuelling the turnover.”
Image credit: EvgeniiAnd, Getty