If you are looking for a financial services job in Hong Kong or Singapore, you're probably applying for a role vacated by someone else.
Firms in the region aren't expanding their headcounts in most functions, recruiters said, especially in front-office investment banking. But there are vacancies created by employees who have left after collecting their bonuses.
An increasing number of financial controllers at banks in Asia were looking to switch to finance jobs in industries outside of financial services this year, said Chris Jay, co-head of recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. He said the pay gap between back-office roles in the corporate and banking sectors was shrinking, leading many banking candidates to seek better work-life balance in other industries. But as these people leave, roles are opening up for financial controllers still keen to slog it out at the banks. Financial-control jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong tend to be mid and senior-level ones because junior positions are being offshored to lower-cost locations like India and the Philippines.
The Asia Pacific region has some 3.37 million people with at least US $1 million in assets to invest, according to the World Wealth Report 2012 by RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini. Many of them are served by private bankers in Singapore, which itself has the densest population of millionaires in the world, according to the Boston Consulting Group. “Given that private money from wealthy individuals continues to flow into Singapore, relationship managers are still able to change roles in this market,” said Gary Lai, managing director, Southeast Asia, Charterhouse Partnership, a recruitment firm in Singapore.
There has been “musical chairs” aplenty in project management in Asia this year, especially for business-process improvement roles at senior vice president to director level, said Chris Mead, regional director at recruitment firm Hays in Singapore. Once senior project managers finish a project at one bank, competitor firms are quick to poach them. “And there tends to be a knock-on effect whereby junior members of their previous team follow them to their new company,” said Mead. “Banks like bringing in new blood.”
Relationship management at commercial banks has been the “hottest job sector” for the past 18 months in Hong Kong, said Marc Burrage, regional director at Hays in Hong Kong. “This year, replacement hiring after bonuses has been more prevalent in larger Hong Kong and China-based banks,” he said. “International banks in Hong Kong made a strong effort last year to retain talent and have seen little turnover. This is perhaps because they have given existing employees better remuneration and career-progression opportunities.”
As the local and global regulatory burden increases, banks in Asia must hire quickly if an experienced compliance professional resigns. “Right now many compliance officers are moving to new positions for both a career change and salary increment following the recent bonus season,” said Sarah Ellis-Goldsmith, manager, legal and compliance, at recruitment agency Robert Walters in Singapore. Lai from Charterhouse said Basel III experts were especially in demand as there was a talent shortage of people in Asia with knowledge of the new capital requirements.
The Big Four accounting firms in Asia are still opening up auditing roles, said Matthew Ng, manager, banking and financial services at recruiters Ambition in Singapore. Big Four accountants usually go for roles like internal auditing or financial reporting within banks because accounting standards, such as IFRS, are often transferable between sectors. “Some people want hands-on in-house experience as compared with being on the outside auditing banks,” said Ng.