If you’re searching for a commodities trading job in Singapore, you will find scant opportunities at the city state’s banks. Commodities trading houses are your best bet, particularly if you’re a senior agri-commodities specialist.
Globally, fixed income currencies and commodities (FICC) divisions bore the brunt of front-office redundancies at investment banks last year – Barclays and UBS were among the heaviest hit. And the cuts are expected to continue into next year, according to consultancy Coalition.
“Equities and FICC businesses, including commodities, have been curtailed significantly at some of the major banks across the world, and there have been job losses in Singapore too,” says Dominic Mound, director of search firm Burnham and Partners in Singapore.
“Looking at commodities trading roles at banks in Singapore, the job market is going the same way as most commodities prices – down,” he adds. “The banks here are not adding commodities headcount – at best they’re just replacing people who’ve left.”
Hiring at commodities trading houses in Singapore isn’t booming, but it is more buoyant than in the banking sector. Mid to senior-level agricultural commodities traders – grains and palm oil specialists in particular – are still in demand, says Adrian Osula, head of Asia commodities sales and trading at recruiters Selby Jennings in Singapore.
Singapore has a 20% share of global agri-commodities trade and regional players such as Noble, Wilmar and Olam have listed in the city state. “Agricultural is a more robust sector in terms of trading jobs and Singapore, at the heart of an expanding Asian marketplace for food, is well placed to take advantage of this,” says Osula.
“There’s been some movement in and out of ADM in Singapore recently as it buys and sells businesses and reviews role duplication, which has helped to free up the job market in agri-commodities generally,” says one Singapore-based commodities recruiter who asked not to be named.
Moving from a commodities trading job at a bank to an in-house role is challenging. “Banks tend to employ paper derivatives traders – not the physical traders you’d find at a commodities house,” says Osula. “So landing a physical role is difficult unless you take a backward step in terms of seniority. It’s almost impossible as a lateral move – you need contacts, you need to know the suppliers and buyers to be able to generate revenue.”
“You could try Cargill if you’re from a bank – they have traders who focus on derivatives trading, helping out the physical guys,” advises the anonymous commodities recruiter.
Executive-level moves from banks are also possible. Last week Glencore hired the head of Goldman Sachs's commodity business in Asia, Chin Thean Quek, to run its Singapore operations, for example.
Commodities trading houses in Singapore are mainly hiring senior staff rather bulking up their headcounts with juniors, says Osula. “There are strong experienced candidates already based here, but these people also need a big push factor to leave their current jobs, so it’s actually difficult to convince them to move.”
Despite a recent drive by the Singapore government to encourage local hiring, trading houses in the city state continue to interview candidates from the overseas offices – in particular those in Switzerland and the US – of their competitors. “These people generally take little convincing – Singapore is a global commodities hub and many in the industry globally want to work here and live here,” says Osula.