Bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore are now clamouring to change companies after pocketing their bonuses, egged on by skill shortages, vacancies at expansionist Asian banks and an underlying cultural of job-hopping that shows no signs of abating.
In Singapore and Hong Kong respectively, 46% and 48% of finance professionals expect to change employers this year – larger ratios than either the US (35%) or UK (38%), according to results from the eFinancialCareers 2013 Global Bonus Survey.
Headhunters and HR professionals in Asia say that in contrast to 2013, the next two months will see much candidate movement. “Last year was a bit unusual in that we made more hires in the second half rather than around bonus time,” Kris Sasitharan, the APAC regional lead of front-office talent acquisition at Deutsche Bank, told us in February. “This year, across the banking sector, from what we’re hearing, more front-office candidates seem to be open to exploring new opportunities.”
Hubert Tam, managing partner at search firm Sirius Partners in Hong Kong, says this bonus season he’s seen more bankers resign “within just one week of their bonus announcement”.
But potential dissatisfaction with the size of bonuses payments isn’t the main reason why more bankers in Asia want to move this year – other factors are at play, say recruiters.
Recent redundancies in the finance sector have made Asian candidates more convinced that staying put isn’t in their best interests. “Bankers are now even more open to new opportunities because they see how their careers can be cut short,” says Tam. “They want to maximise their income before there are management changes and team restructures.”
Employees of global firms in Hong Kong and Singapore are increasingly eyeing up opportunities at local and regional banks. “The distance from US or European head offices makes some of them feel left out of the global businesses – opportunities at Chinese and Asian banks are now a big factor behind people moving,” says Damian Babis, director of headhunters Capital People in Hong Kong. “Bilingual bankers are in demand and competition to hire them is making offers attractive enough to sacrifice continuity of employment at international firms.”
Recruiters in Hong Kong and Singapore also say candidates are generally becoming more confident about moving firms because the recovering job market is now showing signs of skill shortages, especially in relationship management and regulatory roles. “Singapore is a city state with a limited amount of human resources and therefore candidate horse trading is more rampant here than in the US and Europe, where employers have a vast talent hinterland to tap into,” says Rahul Sen, a director at search firm Sheffield Haworth in Singapore.
As we highlighted throughout last year, the traditional tendency for finance professionals in Asia to frequently change employers is still a big annoyance for hiring managers. Bin Wolfe, managing partner of talent at EY for Asia Pacific, told us that China was awash with job-hopping candidates, while Nicholas Johnson, an MD at JPMorgan in Hong Kong, bemoaned receiving too many “bits-and-bobs CVs”. Andrew Hendry, Asia managing director of M&G Investments, said there were too many job hoppers in Singapore.
“It’s commonplace in Asia for candidates to jump almost every year for a marginally larger salary,” says Nick Wells, a director at headhunters Webber Chase in Singapore. “It’s cultural and we are talking about bankers who mainly do their job because it pays very well. If another offer comes along that pays more, they will move.”
Click on the thumbnails below to see global and Asian infographics for the eFinancialCareers bonus survey.