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Expats in Asia: Striking back or just striking out?

Get made redundant in London, send your CV to Singapore, and hear nothing back – a familiar story in 2009. These days, however, Asian-market wannabes are having more luck finding work as recruitment rises in the region.

But while talent shortages in certain sector mean banks are taking on more foreigners, the overall trend is localisation, says Nick Poole, executive director, Tiglon Partners Asia. “The education system is producing a higher quality of locally trained staff in Hong Kong and Singapore,” he adds.

“Banks will always prefer to hire a candidate who is based locally,” says Craig Brewer, director, banking and financial services, Hudson Singapore. “This is primarily due to the potential risk and cost associated with hiring and relocating a foreigner.”

And if they can’t secure local talent, banks target former expats, such as those who left during the GFC, says Alan Wong, general manager, Kelly Services Hong Kong.

So if you haven’t worked in Asia before, you may have to peg back your expectations. Many Westerners have inflated ideas about salaries and relocation packages, and they underestimate how long it will take them to become “useful” in the region, says Kate Harper, manager, investment banking, operations, risk and finance, Connected Group.

Poole says you must have a unique selling point or niche in order for an Asian-based bank to hire you. “There are three simple reasons why an employer will consider you: 1) to make money for the firm; 2) to save money; or 3) or to enhance the reputation of the firm,” he adds.

Is it worth financing your own visit to Asia to kick start your job search? “It’s a costly trip if your skill set is not sought after. I suggest building a relationship with a recruiter who is working directly in your job function, and seek advice on whether a self-funded trip is advisable, and most importantly, when you should do it,” advises Harper.

Brewer adds: “Speak to people who are living there to get a feel for the city and culture. Find out the basic surroundings and the cost of living.”

Next week we discuss which job functions are most open to foreign talent.

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Comments (5)

  1. Asia is not what it used to be period.

    Dont waste your time or money.

  2. Why hire an expat when locals are cheaper, better and faster?

  3. That comment of yours just serves to reinforce what so many of us Asians think badly of the majority of expatriates

  4. Singapore is getting overcrowded in particular areas like Raffles place, Shenton Way, Suntec, Orchard. It is not the same what it used to be even 5 years back where the accomodation was more affordable. If I am not wrong, rental in S’Pore is more expensive than in US.

  5. Send your CV over. there will always be expat hires because some cultures just don’t trust the locals- that’s why you have many heads/juniors from home zone whom are not even familar with local market/regions presiding over more competent locals. Things have not changed through the years. Of course there is also reverse discrimination. As a foreigner you just cannot get into some of the local banks.Unless you are prepared to take a local package, ccummute in a sardine can, kive in publuc housing, (a car set you back by $60 to $80k or more), the grass is not greener on the other side.

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